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Like this article? We recommend Calibrating Your Monitor (The Lame Built-In Freebie Method)

Calibrating Your Monitor (The Lame Built-In Freebie Method)

To have any hope of getting what comes out of your color inkjet printer to match what you see onscreen, you absolutely, positively have to calibrate your monitor. It’s the cornerstone of color management, and there are two ways to do it: (1) buy a hardware calibration sensor that calibrates your monitor precisely; or (2) use the free built-in system software calibration, which is better than nothing, but not by much since you’re just “eyeing” it. We’ll start with the freebie calibration, but if you’re serious about this stuff, turn to the next technique.

Step One:

First, we’ll look at the worst-case scenario: you’re broke (you spent all available funds on the CS4 upgrade), so you’ll have to go with the free built-in system software cali-bration. Macintosh computers have calibration built into the system, but Windows PCs don’t. Adobe used to include a separate utility for Windows called Adobe Gamma, so if you upgraded from CS2 or an older version (or have the installation CD for CS3), you should have Adobe Gamma in your Control Panel (or in the Goodies folder on the installation CD). Now for the freebie calibration on the Macintosh: To find Apple’s built-in monitor calibration software, go under the Apple menu and choose System Preferences. In the System Preferences dialog, click on the Displays preferences, and when the options appear, click on the Color tab. When the Color options appear, click on the Calibrate button to bring up the Display Calibrator Assistant window (shown in the next step).

Step Two:

Now, at first this seems like a standard Welcome screen, so you’ll probably be expecting to just click the Continue button, but don’t do that until you turn on the Expert Mode checkbox. I know what you’re thinking: “But I’m not an expert!” Don’t worry, within a few minutes you’ll be within the top 5% of all photographers who have knowledge of monitor calibration, because sadly most never calibrate their monitor. So turn on the check-box and click the Continue button with the full confidence that you’re about to enter an elite cadre of highly calibrated individuals (whatever that means).

Step Three:

The first section has you go through a series of five different windows, and each window will ask you to perform a simple matching test using a slider. It’s a no-brainer, as Apple tells you exactly what to do in each of these five windows (it’s actually the same for all five windows, so once you’ve read the first window’s instructions, you’re pretty much set). So, just follow Apple’s easy instructions to get through these five windows, then I’ll join you right after.

Step Four:

Okay, so you survived the “five native response windows of death.” Amazingly easy, wasn’t it? (It even borders on fun.) Well, believe it or not, that’s the hard part—the rest could be done by your 5-year-old, provided you have a 5-year-old (if not, you can rent one from Apple’s website). So here we are at a screen asking you to select a target gamma (basically, you’re choosing a contrast setting here). Apple pretty much tells you “it is best to use the Mac Standard gamma of 1.8,” but it has no idea that you’re a photographer and need something better. Most digital imaging pros I know recommend setting your gamma to 2.2 (the PC Standard), which creates a richer contrast on-screen (which tends to make you open the shadows up when editing, which is generally a good thing detail-wise). Drag the slider to PC Standard and see if you agree, then click Continue.

Step Five:

Now it asks you to select a white point. I use D65 (around 6500 Kelvin, in case you care). Why? That’s what most of the pros use, because it delivers a nice, clean white point without the yellowish tint that occurs when using lower temperature settings. With the slider set at D65, you can click the Continue button. The next window just asks if you’re sharing your computer with other users, so I’m skipping that window, because if you are, you’ll turn on the checkbox; if you’re not, you won’t. Snore.

Step Six:

When you click Continue again, you’ll be greeted with a window that lets you name your profile. Type in the name you want for your profile, and click the Continue button. The last window (which there’s no real reason to show here) just sums up the choices you’ve made, so if you made some egregious mistake, you could click the Go Back button, but seriously, what kind of huge mistake could you have made that would show up at this point? Exactly. So click the Done button and you’ve created a semi-accurate profile for your monitor (hey, don’t complain—it’s free calibration). Now, you don’t have to do anything in Photoshop for it to recognize this new profile—it happens automatically (in other words, “Photoshop just knows.” Eerie, ain’t it?).

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